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How Will Culture Minister Nadine Dorries Influence New UK Gambling Laws?

new uk gambling actCabinet reshuffles are a bit like changing deckchair on the Titanic; you know that things are only going to get worse but for a brief moment you get to pretend that a different perspective promises a different outcome. Given that the majority of the country voted for a party other than the Conservatives at the last election but a lack of proportional representations means we’re stuck with the Tories anyway, even fewer people will be interested in, entertained by or care in anyway whatsoever about the most recent reshuffle.

What it has done, however, is landed Nadine Dorries with the role of Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. That position puts her in charge of various departments, not least of which is the United Kingdom Gambling Commission. As a result, a woman who said in 2017 that any old Tom, Dick or Harriet could log onto her parliamentarian computer will now be making the decisions around how the government approaches gambling. The question is, what does all of that mean for the industry that so many people depend upon?

What Are Her Gambling Views?

nadime dorries

Chris McAndrew, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

There is surprisingly little information about Nadine Dorries’ view on gambling in the public domain, which is concerning when you think that she will now be spear-heading the government’s new gambling legislation. All we can do is read the tealeaves provided by her voting record, with one of the most interesting coming about it 2014. Back then, there was a vote on the idea of local councils controlling Fixed Odds Betting Terminals, which Dorries voted against. This suggests she’s in favour of less control of the market.

We also know that, when Mental Health Minister, Dorries was of the opinion that evidence linking gambling to suicides was ‘unreliable’. That is obviously not the attitude of someone that is likely to come down hard in favour of tighter regulation across the board for bettors. Instead, it is suggestive of a government minister that is likely to favour the market regulating itself more than having too much regulation enforced upon it. Given she is a Tory, it’s clear that Dorries is a capitalist at heart and will therefore be pro-making money.

Her voting record on all things gambling related will make for good reading for those within the industry hoping to see less regulation put in place, rather than more. Here’s a look at her record on key gambling-related issues:

Date Legislation Dorries’ Vote
19th Jan 2006 National Lottery Bill Absent
28th March 2007 Gambling (Geographical Distribution of Casino Premises Licences No
17th May 2011 Specific Planning Permission For Betting Shops No
26th November 2013 Banning Self-Exclusion Bettors From Internet & Telephone Gambling No
26th November 2013 Extending Horse Racing Levy To Overseas Bookies No
4th December 2013 Increase Stake & Prize Limits For Some Gambling Machines Yes
8th January 2014 Give Local Government Power To Limit FOBT Proliferation No
8th January 2014 Give Local Councils Power To Limit FOBT Proliferation No

Obviously it is sometimes tricky to understand what a bill is about, so here’s an easy shorthand for you. Tom Watson, the former Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, is vociferously against problem gambling and keen to introduce more legislation to control gambling companies and their powers. Nadine Dorries voted on the opposite side of every issue to Tom Watson. The above is not an exhaustive list, but it certainly begins to paint a picture of Dorries’ views on gambling matters in general and how she’ll likely vote in the future.

The New All-Party Parliamentary Group

appgSomething that is worth mentioning at this stage is the launch of an All-Party Parliamentary Group that is looking at the competence and effectiveness of the United Kingdom Gambling Commission. The desire to look at the UKGC and its powers is being driven by those in the industry that feel as though the Gambling Commission has begun to overstep its boundary, breaching the Regulators Code and arguably supplying a poor quality of service. Whilst Dorries is not on this panel, it is still something that is worth discussing.

There have been numerous criticisms of the UKGC over the years, which led to papers on the matter being published by the Public Accounts Committee, National Audit Office and House of Lords Select Committee on the Social and Economic Impact of the Gambling Industry in 2020. The All-Party Parliamentary Group felt, however, that the report did not ‘fully cover the scope of allegations’, hence its formation. Anything that is decided will likely be fed back to the DCMS, meaning it will come under Dorries’ control.

‘A Digital Danger’

dangers of gambling

When Nadine Dorries’ appointment as Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport was made public, many within all industries that come under that remit shook their head in confusion. Indeed, there was a suggestion from the Times newspaper that the Prime Minister had chosen to give the role to Dorries ‘out of a sense of mischief’. We’ll skip past the idea of Boris Johnson so casually playing with peoples’ lives for a moment and instead focus on why, exactly, there was so much consternation about the appointment at all.

Dorries is known for having ‘socially conservative views’, such as reducing the term limits for abortions. When the minister for mental health, she denied that there was a ‘mental health crisis’ even as levels of stress and anxiety began to soar. As well as allowing numerous people to logon to her parliamentary computer, Dorries has also regularly allowed her daughter to use her Twitter account, leading some to describe her as a ‘digital danger’. Given she is now in control of looking at the UK’s privacy and data sharing rules, you can see why some are worried.

Is The Role A Stepping Stone?

MP Dates At DCMS Office They Went To
Karen Bradley July 2016 – January 2018 Secretary Of State For Northern Ireland
Matt Hancock January 2018 – July 2018 Secretary of State for Health and Social Care
Jeremy Wright July 2018 – July 2019 N/A
Nicky Morgan July 2019 – February 2020 N/A
Oliver Dowden February 2020 – September 2021 Chairman Of The Conservative Party

There have been ten different Culture Secretaries in place since the Tories won power back from Labour as part of a coalition in 2010, with five different ministers taking on the role since 2017. The table above looks at the five ministers that led the DCMS before Dorries was appointed and where they ended up next.

You can see that previous MPs that have been the head of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport have mostly gone on to more senior roles within the Tory party, with the two exceptions being Jeremy Wright and Nicky Morgan. It’s therefore possible that Dorries will view the appointment as a chance to move on to bigger and better things, though quite what she’ll do in the meantime remains to be seen.

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